Wednesday, 13 April 2016

How science broke - Greens - Final Iteration

This does not necessarily contradict anything else I wrote about them. The greens, or environmentalists have been telling us we must stop using fossil fuels for a long time. Back in the 1970s the argument was "we are running out of fossil fuel". Now the argument is: fossil fuels are catastrophically warming earth's climate, and this will kill humanity and the earth (or something like that. Woe and peril follow, anyhow), and, a secondary argument just in case the first fails!,: the pollution (CO2!, acid gases and particulates) from burning carbon fossil kills humans and sea life. How and why did the argument switch like that. From too little fossil fuel to too much? The too little fossil fuel argument was roundly defeated by reality. The more we looked for fossil fuels the more we found, including vast fields of low quality shales and tars. When we figured out how to extract the shales and tars that really blew the old argument to pieces. Today, one no longer hears greens saying "we're running out". The global warming argument was not actually a green argument, and one suspects many greens haven't a clue how it's supposed to work. The main green arguments in support of CAGW goes "Jim Hansen said it so it must be true", "97% of scientists say it's so", or even "The IPCC said it". It's basically an appeal to authority argument. It has to be. We'll find out why later.

What went wrong

If greens didn't break science who dun it? Over the course of the 20th century, people, especially Westerners came to be inculcated with paranoia over the modern world. Paranoia over our food, medicines, toys. From sugar, fat, chemicals, and GMOs in food, through to chemicals in the environment. Modern people believe we're killing ourselves. A few of these scares are legitimate. Used in large quantities, some things are harmful: radiation, benzene, asbestos. However, I'd argue that harmful substances would've been properly regulated and replaced anyway without the green movement. Nearly all the warnings of harm come from science, often posing hypotheses : X could be killing Y. This is amplified by the media to become an incessant noise of scare and paranoia. This paranoia over the present and future comes from within society, from everyone, not just greens. Greens are just a symptom of what we become when we push the argument to it's limit. Scientists are now regarded as the most legitimate purveyors of dangers, certainly by themselves. The modern green is very different to the green of 4 decades ago. Modern greens are obsessed over personal health, and care little about saving or helping baby seals, whales, or wild birds. Make it safe become the only argument in town. Even greens no longer say "we're running out". Over time that's quite a change in the green movement: from nature-loving Malthusians to paranoid health conscious anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, ... anti-nuclear power, anti-chemicals. The common thread in greenery is their Malthusian worldview and sustainability obsessions. Renewable energy ticks the old and new boxes. Greens can convince themselves that radiation from nuclear power is killing us but solar is a green, healthy technology. The argument against fossil fuel (it's running out, stop using it) was transformed by inventing the hypothesis of catastrophic greenhouse global warming, caused by burning fossil fuel. Here there's a grain of truth - more CO2 really does warm the climate, if only infinitesimally. By demanding the hypothesis be treated as if it were a valid theory. By demonizing as deniers anyone posing an alternative. Climate warming from burning all the fossil fuel on earth is very unlikely to cause any catastrophic global warming. That isn't the point. The point was to keep on throwing shit at us to see what sticks. They just got lucky with global warming, and found a con that scientists saw as plausible. The idea needed a grain of truth otherwise it would never have been able to con so many scientists too.

Science is broke, again

The head honcho climate scientist in Britain said, in 2007, that it must be CO2 causing global warming because "we can't think what else it might be". There two fundamentally unscientific things in what she said here.

  1. There's was no significant global warming from 1999 to 2007.
  2. Scientists aren't supposed to think like this: "it must be Jim wot done it because we can't figure out who else could've". They are supposed to gather data, do experiments, form hypotheses and test those hypotheses against what they found out from data. Such validated hypotheses are called theories, which could be considered scientific truth. Everything a scientist says is not scientific truth. It could just as well be junk.
It's not as if the greens broke science, nor is it the first time science broke. Modernity broke science. Or rather our obsessive fears over chemicals, radiation, GMOs, ..., our shadow. Rather than greens being the cause of, say, no-safe-dose (LNT), or the man-made global warming hoax, we, ourselves, are to blame. We broke science. We also made the greens in our image. They are just the far extreme of what's wrong with us, where our paranoias are amplified into a way of life.

Don't be silly, science is not broke!

I hear the sarky voice of a scientist at the back of my mind. Let me answer. By broke, I mean the majority of scientists believe that a hypothesis which was never validated is true. True in the sense that it has the status of law. It governs society. True in the sense that scientists treat it as if it were valid theory. The predictive power of this hypothesis is, actually, very bad. Scientists hoodwinked themselves into believing junk. Almost forgot. At least two hypotheses have this status now. Science is well broke. It changed from the child of Enlightenment, or perhaps, even the parent to the jailor. Adorno (and Nietzsche) would love the paradox.

Enlightenment reverts to mythology, which it never really knew how to elude

  • CAGW : Catastrophic Anthropic Global Warming

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